Scientists discover plants buried deep beneath Greenland's ice sheet. What does this mean?

Edited By: Bharat Sharma WION Web Team
New Delhi, India Published: Mar 16, 2021, 12:54 PM(IST)

Greenland ice sheet Photograph:( AFP )

Story highlights

The discovery of plants beneath ice in Greenland reveals that the region underwent melting at a scale similar to what's happening right now

Scientists recently found plants beneath ice in Greenland, essentially rewriting what we know about previous warming periods in Earth's history. The discovery of plants beneath ice reveals that the region underwent melting at a scale similar to what's happening right now.

Within the last million years, the region underwent melting, similar to what we have done to the planet, or as scientists call it - climate change.

The plants which were discovered recently have a long history though. A group of US Army scientists drilled down ice in northwestern Greenland in 1966. They then extracted a long tube of dirt from the bottom.

Lost in a freezer for decades, the tube was rediscovered in 2017. Soon after in 2019, University of Vermont’s scientist Andrew Christ observed the remains closely under a microscope and found that twigs and leaves were growing in the tube, as opposed to just sand and rock.

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Through this, Christ ascertained that greenery and vegetation have thrived in Greenland in the past, perhaps caused by warming cycles like the one happening right now.

With a team of scientists led by Joerg Schaefer from Columbia University, along with University of Copenhagen’s Dorthe Dahl-Jense, and Paul Bierman at UVM, it was found that most, if not all, of Greenland was green within the last million years.

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It is possible that greenery flourished in Greenland even in the last few hundred-thousand years. Christ referred to the remains in the discovery as a “time capsule”, and a sneak-peek into what used to live on Greenland.

This discovery could help scientists understand climate change, and how Greenland will respond to global warming in the near future. It could also help scientists predict how long it would take for the ice to melt.

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